Tue, Apr 07, 2009 - Page 11 News List

UBS imposes global travel ban on wealth advisers


Swiss bank UBS has issued a worldwide travel ban for wealth management client advisers, a spokeswoman said, after coming under scrutiny in a US tax fraud investigation.

“Last week, we issued a general travel ban for all staff with client contact in international wealth management,” the spokeswoman said.

“UBS is currently conducting a review of its policy and compliance framework for its international wealth management offering,” she said, adding that the ban would be in place until the review is finalized.

UBS is the world’s largest wealth management company in terms of assets. Last year, US authorities briefly detained a senior UBS employee as part of a probe into whether the bank helped US clients evade tax through Swiss bank accounts.

After the probe was launched, UBS said it would discontinue offshore banking and securities services to US residents and stopped client advisers based in Switzerland from travelling to the US to meet clients.

The Swiss newspaper Sonntags Blick reported on Sunday that more than 1,000 employees would be affected by the ban now in place.

“This is an immediate step to reduce compliance risk. We are conducting the review because of the complex regulatory environment of UBS international wealth management,” the spokeswoman said.

Last week, the Financial Times (FT) reported that Swiss private banks were banning their top executives from traveling abroad.

The FT quoted an unnamed head of a leading private bank in Geneva as saying steps by countries like the US and Germany to fight tax evasion meant banks felt they had to limit travel to protect employees.

It cited four unnamed sources in the Geneva private banking industry as saying some banks were introducing total travel bans for staff, even for neighboring European countries.

Following an agreement at last week’s G20 summit to crack down on tax havens, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development placed Switzerland on a “gray list” of countries that have agreed to improve transparency standards but have not yet signed the necessary international accords.

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